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Antique Furniture Value
When everything is sanded smooth and coated with polyurethane a fine piece of antique furniture falls into a class with antique replicas. With no way to tell the age the antique furniture value takes a tremendous nose dive.
If you have a piece of antique furniture and you have a desire for something smooth with a plastic finish, please sell the antique to someone who will give it loving care and take your money and buy two antique replicas and have some money left over.
What Is The Vintage Of That Antique Chair
Although you can't tell the vintage of an antique chair to within even a few years, you can tell the general era of the chair and you can tell if someone is trying to pull the wool over your eyes, saying a chair is antique, if the tell tale signs are absent.
Top Back Of The Antique Chair
First, look at the top of the back part of the back. If it's flattened on an otherwise curved back the flattening was probably due to the chair being pushed back against a wall or a chair rail.
Just pushing a chair against a chair rail or wall doesn't create much pressure on the back of the chair, so it takes a lot of years to flatten the part of the chair that touches the wall. The flattened area may in some cases be worn away or the cells of the wood may be compressed to cause the flattening.
If you look at old pictures you'll see that chairs were generally against the wall rather than at the table like we do now days.
There generally was a chair rail on the wall. The chair rail was just a finished board at about the height of the chair back and it's use was to keep the wall from being damaged by the backs of chairs.
Shakers and Shaker Pegs
The Shakers used to hang their chairs high on the walls to keep them out of the way, so their chair rails were much higher on the walls and had wooden pegs attached to them for hanging the chairs. Most people are familiar with Shaker Pegs, but many don't know why that's their name. The Shaker Pegs are explained more on our page about chair rails
This practice of hanging chairs changed the wear area on the chairs. If a chair was hung right side up the compression would be on the bottom center of the top cross piece of the back of the chair and compression or wear flattening on the bottom back of the back chair legs.
Some Shakers would hang their chairs upside down, which got them even more out of the way with the front legs and seat up high where they couldn't run into them. When a chair is hung upside down the wear and compression is on the top of the top rung on the back when the chair is right side up.
Then there's the inevitable wear on the top of the top rung on the front, because even Shakers would sometimes put their feet on the rung of the chair as they sat in it. Not too many Shaker children, though, as the Shakers practiced celibacy and the only Shaker children were adopted.
The Shakers have pretty much died out, but their heritage lives on at The Shaker Village at Sabbathday Lake, Maine
Rounded Chair Leg Bottom Fronts
Another place to look is the fronts of the bottoms of the front legs. If the chair is very old the fronts of the bottoms will be more rounded than the sides or backs. The rounding is from the way that chairs are generally picked up. Most people will pick up a chair by its back, which will rock it forward on the fronts of the front legs before it lifts off the floor. The rocking forward will compress the wood over a long period of time and give good evidence of age. The flat area on the upper back is from compression of the wood fibers too. It takes a lot of years of light touching and rocking to give that type of evidence.
If you're interested in antique furniture it's important to learn how to evaluate the evidence of use to determine the vintage of antiques and to not disturb the evidence of use of any antique. See our page about antique restoration for tips on restoring antique furniture.
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